Friday, September 11, 2009

Route 66: Endangered, but Not Extinct!

Route 66 is like America's embarrassing childhood photo album, full of painfully awkward images of its wanton youth. Perhaps that's why John Steinbeck decided to call Route 66 "the Mother Road" in the classic I've never read, The Grapes of Wrath, because despite their seeming futility America's mom simply refuses to throw away these precious old memories. My girlfriend and I recently traveled the stretch from San Bernadino, California to Holbrook, Arizona, and despite our aspirations to finish the route someday, I feel very satisfied with this definitively southwestern experience, perfectly capturing the past of these two states I've called home for so long.

While many of the well-documented attractions along Route 66 essentially amount to abandoned ruins, these sites are thankfully only endangered -- not extinct, like the dozens of dinosaurs you'll find along this eastern-bound trip. To best chronicle this experience, I've decided to treat this trip topically, versus geographically as many other explorers and travellers have. After all, I'm simply a casual observer, enraptured by the more pedestrian attractions, whereas others enjoy digging up the mysterious histories of these exotic Americana roots. No, I'm a much simpler man; show me some dinosaurs, tell me some ghost stories, give me an old-fashioned ice cream, and I'm happy. Perhaps that's why Route 66 has endured for so long . . . as much as it exploits 20th century America's youth, it unabashedly reminds us of our own.

After a mildly inspiring initial encounter with metal-made dinosaurs in San Bernadino, our next 'saurus-sighting was in Peach Springs, Arizona, at the Grand Canyon Caverns. I'll talk about the caverns in a later post, but I was most impressed with how the air one breathes in this underground rocky wonderland comes from a crack in the Grand Canyon some sixty miles away, hence the caverns' name. At the entrance to the park, this googily-eyed dinosaur welcomes you.

Then, once parked near the restaurant and caverns' entrance, this towering T-Rex snarls at you, a sly smile that says, "Ah, nothin's tastier than a tourist's wallet!"

I actually felt sorry for this fella, though, who brought new meaning to the phrase, "Look, Ma, no hands!" I wonder, did he try to touch the meteor that felled his long lost brothers? Or were Jurassic veterinarians just that bad at declawing pets?

My love affair with these roadside raptors and whatnot ended in Holbrook, Arizona, where the remains of a dinosaur theme park are preserved at this rock store. Thankfully, I had my dinosaur theme park T-shirt on to celebrate the sighting. As you can see, at my girlfriend's behest, I tried to kiss one of the dinosaurs good-bye, but he craned his neck away. He wasn't having it. Perhaps in his carnivorous heart he knew, "This isn't good-bye. Oh, you'll be back."

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